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A political standoff in the Indian state of Karnataka

A political standoff in the Indian state of Karnataka

AsiaMay 16th 2018 | DELHItwitter iconfacebook iconlinkedin iconmail iconprint iconSON of a paddy farmer, born in a village in the colonial-era kingdom of Mysore, H.D. Deve Gowda has a good claim to be the most improbable of all India’s prime ministers. For ten months in 1996-97 he stood at the pinnacle of power in Delhi.…

SON of a paddy farmer, born in a village in the colonial-era kingdom of Mysore, H.D. Deve Gowda has a good claim to be the most improbable of all India’s prime ministers. For ten months in 1996-97 he stood at the pinnacle of power in Delhi. He had bumped his way to the head of a “united front” of third parties—which had nothing in common except that they were neither the grand old Congress party nor the emerging Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of today’s prime minister, Narendra Modi. Mr Gowda was hardly a national figure: his chief supporters were farmers from his Vokkaliga caste from the Mysore region, now part of the state of Karnataka. They have stood by him ever since, as he has returned home and traded allegiances freely. At the age of 85, Mr Gowda is poised once more to break a tie. After the election of May 12th left Karnataka with a hung parliament, he struck a bargain with Congress to keep the BJP out of government—on the condition that his son, H.D. Kumaraswamy, become the state’s next chief minister.

National elections are due early next year, and Congress is struggling to stay viable as a nationwide rival to the BJP. Since the previous national election, in 2014, Congress has lost state after state to the BJP: Karnataka was one of just three out of the country’s 29 where it remained in government.

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